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Meringue gives Lemon Icebox Pie an old-timey touch, but whipped cream works wonderfully as well. Or serve it as is, plainly irresistibly good.

For a do-ahead, pleasing and simple to make pie, lemon icebox pie — well, I almost said “…takes the cake!”, but I will make that… has little competition. Lemon juice, grated lemon rind, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks make a devinely bright and intense filling, and the egg whites decorate the pie beautifully, while adding the soft sweet flourish that meringue provides for just a bit of extra work. If you don’t make meringue this time, freeze the egg whites for a future meringue, or a batch of macaroons. A baked pie shell makes an equally good base for this pie.

As beautiful as it is delicious, this pie can be made in advance and baked, then refrigerated overnight. Top it with meringue for quick baking, or whipped cream for a speedy flourish.

Nancie’s Lemon Icebox Pie

1 graham cracker piecrust

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated lemon rind, or finely chopped lemon zest

3 egg whites

3 tablespoons sugar

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Combine the sweetened condensed milk, the egg yolks, the lemon juice and the lemon rind in a medium bowl. Use a fork or a whisk to mix everything together evenly and well. Pour the filling into the graham cracker piecrust, and bake at 325 degrees F. for 25 minutes, until the pie is firm and set.

No meringue?

Set aside on a cooling rack or folded kitchen towel and cool to room temperature. Then cover and chill until serving time. If using whipped cream, make it and add it to the top of the pie within about 2 hours of serving time; the closer to serving time, the better.


If you are making meringue, set pie aside while you prepare it. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the egg whites in a medium bowl, and use an electric mixer to beat them at medium speed until they are bubbly, about 1 minute. Continue beating, scraping bowl often, until they turn white and thicken up like pure cream. Add about 1 tablespoon of the sugar and continue beating until they swell up and begin holding rounded shapes. Add the rest of the sugar gradually, while beating the egg whites. Continue beating until you have a rich thick, shiny  meringue which holds curly little peaks. Spread on the pie, making sure to seal it to the edges of the crust all the way around. Mound it up in the middle and use the back of a spoon or a butter knife to pull out little curls and swirls, or whatever pleases you. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the meringue is handsomely browned.  Cool to room temperature; then cover carefully and chill until shortly before serving time.

About the Author
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher, and the author of ten cookbooks. Her passion is researching and celebrating traditional food in its cultural context, and her beloved subjects are two seemingly different places with much in common: the cuisines of Asia and of the American South. Nancie gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a Piedmont North Carolina native,and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.
  1. lei Reply

    i tried this last night and when i checked this morning, it did not set at all 🙁

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      I’m so sorry that you ended up with something closer to lemon soup than to the lemon pie you had in mind. I wanted to try the pie again, as I haven’t made it since that post, and meant to get to it sooner than this. Thanks for your patience. My pie came out firm enough to slice, after it had cooled down from its time in the oven. In thinking over what could have gone wrong, I come up with oven temperature — is it possible that your oven reads 325 degrees but is in fact at a lower temperature? Did you stir in the egg yolks and lemon juice so that the filling was very well blended, as both those ingredients help thicken the pie and help it ‘set up’? Let me know if either of these things could be a factor — I’d like you to have a Lovely Lemon Pie, not Sour Soup!

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